When we are young we have too much of it, when we are older we can’t get enough of it. What really is “energy” and how can we create energy in our own lives? Do we have to keep waiting for energy-filled days or are there proactive steps we can take to create more energy? The good news is that there are proactive steps to create more energy. The even better news is that I am going to share them with you and challenge you to take a few!
One common mistake people make is thinking that the only way to get more energy is to create healthy lifestyle changes that revolve around food and fitness. While that is one area we will cover that does dramatically influence energy–it is far from the only one. There are different types of energy and different sources of energy. Physical energy is influenced by our daily lifestyle habits, but there is also Emotional Energy, Production Energy, and Spiritual Energy, all of which can bring more zest and productivity to your days.
First, these four classifications aren’t “official classifications.” I made these names based on the research that I have been doing. It seemed that these four “groups” encompassed the energy-triggers I was uncovering. My working definition of energy is, “a feeling or personal power that allows us to continue positive production or perusal of the need-to-do tasks in our lives.”
Emotional Energy and “The Second Wind”
Have you ever been really tired and then pushed yourself to go do something anyway? Perhaps it was a dinner with a friend or attending a talk or lecture? Somewhere inside that period, the tiredness disappears and is replaced by what we often call “a second wind.” That “second wind” is energy that you are producing. It isn’t something you have to wait for, you can produce that energy at any time once you understand the steps that created it in the first place.
Discovering emotional energy: This energy is derived from something that sparks our emotions or our passions. We receive new information, or hear old information in a new way. Or perhaps we are around someone who emulates energy, and their passion excites the energy within us.
Caution: Remember that energy fluctuates, so as easily as you can build it – you can also destroy it. There is no quicker way to become tired than spending time around negative people or listening to negative news. All stimulus influences our energy one way or the other. Watch for stimulus that are influencing your energy levels negatively. Example: Watching a round of Headline News will catch you up on the day’s Headlines. But does watching additional programming help or hinder? What about reading? Are your choices uplifting and inspiring more energy or are they energy sappers?
Put it into Practice: To use Emotional Energy in your everyday life, you need to discover what produces this energy for you personally. Create a page in your notebook for listing your energy-producers. Here are a few that are on my list:
1. Read positive feedback or notes I have received from readers.
2. Have coffee, dinner or lunch with someone who I find inspiring.
3. Read a book that I find inspiring or motivational–something that really “speaks” to me.
4. Make sure I start my day off with positive emotional energy through my “Good Morning” routine.
5. Ask myself each morning, “Who do I want to be today?” and then remain personally accountable for being the best “me” possible.
Of course we can’t “talk” about energy without including the physical element. However, if you are overwhelmed by the thought of a new health plan, keep reading. Little changes can make a big difference in your energy production. Many of us are aware of the “big steps” we should take, so I have tried to focus on little changes that make a big impact. If you would like an overview of the big changes, I really recommend spending a few minutes at this site: [http://www.agingresearch.org/calculator/]
I saw expert Thomas Perls on CNN with Larry King and found his research quite interesting and revealing. This free, online test is a great way to look at the “gaps” in your life. Odds are where you fall short on the health score are many of the same areas where you can improve and create more energy. This is an online life-expectancy calculator that is geared around his study of “Living to 100.” It is very comprehensive and the results are equally comprehensive. This does a great job of tackling the “big areas” and some of the little areas, too.
Now let’s look at some other physical areas and break down positive changes you can easily make:
Somebody bring me some water: As many of you know, I am leading a 2006 Goal Group. We have been discussing health/water/energy. A member submitted this link which is a wonderful resource for understanding your unique water needs. It includes a formula for learning how much water you need based on your specific weight. http://www.naturodoc.com/library/nutrition/water.htm
Your personal zzzz quota: Recent research shows that the optimum amount of sleep is 7.2 hours. However, some people still need more and others need less. Figuring out your own personal quota can go a long way toward regulating your energy. Ideally you want to get the same amount of sleep each night to maintain optimum energy levels (you should also go to bed at the same time each night). Discovering your “zzz quota” takes a bit of work, but is well worth it. (Besides, how else will you get the permission to practice sleeping?) Before beginning, make sure you are not completely drained or fatigued otherwise you are going to overcompensate on your sleep. Spend a week getting more sleep so you are “fresh” to begin your study. Then for one week, go to bed EARLY enough that you can wake up naturally without an alarm clock. Write down how long you sleep for each of the 7 days, then average it out. This is your personal “zzz quota.” Keep in mind this can change depending on what you are going through in your life, so it is good to “re-check” once or twice per year.
Sleep preparation: Make sure that you stop eating at least 3 hours prior to going to sleep to allow everything to digest. Avoid caffeinated beverages after dinner. Make your room “sleep friendly” by turning off the television and playing relaxing music.
The affects of food: Since food is our primary energy source, it makes sense that good food will produce good energy and poor choices will effect us negatively. Reduce refined sugar in your diet as much as possible. Avoid meals that are high in carbs during the second half of the day and focus instead on protein. Protein provides more stable energy than carbs which keep our body going like a roller coaster!
Reduce starches and breads: Bread, rolls, bagels, pasta — starches often slow people down. Try going a week or two with minimal starches and see if this helps your energy level. You can conduct the same experiment with caffeine.
Pop those vitamins: At minimum take a good daily vitamin. While you may not see a huge change, over long term usage, this can help prevent many of the conditions that sap energy. The key here is consistency. Choose something you do daily and put your vitamins and a bottled water next to that item. Examples: next to car keys, toothbrush, coffee maker, computer.
Food patterns: Consider keeping a food journal to see how your energy fluctuates with your food consumption. Make adjustments to your food intake based on your discoveries. Remember that eating too little can be just as energy sapping as eating the wrong foods. Work on a balanced diet and don’t forget your breakfast! Studies have shown that those who eat breakfast have more energy. If you have a hard time eating breakfast, find a simple solution. I often grab a breakfast bar on the go. A lean sandwich can also be made the night before and enjoyed in the morning. You don’t have to eat “breakfast foods,” but you do need to eat breakfast.
Exercise: You knew I would say it sooner or later! Getting your body moving is one of the quickest ways to increase energy. I love using my elliptical trainer and find that after I do so, I have extra energy to burn. Give any exercise program about 3 weeks to start giving you energy – the first three weeks can be tiring as we snap our bodies out of their comas! A recent Prevention article shared how doing just 10 minutes of LIGHT weight lifting repetitions caused a focus group to feel a 45% increase in their energy level. Pick up some light weights (5-10 pounds) at your local discount-mart and use them by your television at night.
Put it into Practice: It is important to recognize that energy isn’t a “one size fits all” formula. I encourage you to experiment with each concept, paying attention to how it impacts your energy level. Choose one area to start with from the above list and schedule a “start date” on your calendar this coming week.
One of my goal group participants was very surprised at her progress during her first week. While prior to the class she had felt unable to accomplish the simplest tasks, she now found herself completing her goal-centered to do lists — and more! “How does that work?” she asked in a post to the support board.
This member discovered “productive energy.” Aristotle said, “We become what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” When we repeatedly step forward, we propel ourselves forward even further. When we continually stand still, we dig a bigger rut. When we continually move backward, we dig a big hole.
To truly understand productive energy, think of a time when you were fatigued and then became inspired to do something. Perhaps it was reading a book, writing, or organizing, or completing pages in a scrapbook. Before you knew it, you looked at the clock and hours had passed–even though you were tired earlier. What changed? Well you didn’t eat anything or exercise. The change was in what you were doing. Your attitude and productiveness elevated – thus elevating your performance and your energy.
Make a list … and make sure to check it twice: The first step in building productive energy is to be focused on the right track. Have a clear list of what you want to accomplish with clear and attainable timelines. Make sure to star three items for the day that will allow you to feel good about the day regardless of what bumps pop up in your path.
Get started early: Make sure to start your action list early in the day to build momentum. If you have problems with procrastination, consider enrolling in our Procrastination Primer class.
Recharge: In order to be productive, you must have balance and that means learning what you personally need to recharge. Some people need quiet time each day, others just need a good night’s rest. Discover what helps you recharge and work that it into your to-do lists.
Forget revving your engine and just go… The great thing about productive energy is you don’t have to prepare or spend a lot of time thinking about it. Often we over-think and would be much better off following the Nike slogan. Push yourself over inaction and you’ll discover that productive energy is ready and waiting for you whenever you need it.
Put it into Practice: Read through these four tips and “star” which seems to speak to you the most as a way to increase your Production Energy. Schedule time to work in that area this month.
Spiritual energy can be thought of as “soul food.” It isn’t anxious or stress-filled motivation energy, but a calm and centered energy. Think of a time where you have experienced deep relaxation or a time where you have been moved by a sermon or religious reading/teaching. That centeredness is spiritual energy. The beauty of spiritual energy is that it is steady and fulfilling. It doesn’t rely on “highs and lows” to keep recreating itself. It comes from listening instead of talking and “being present” instead of “trying to get somewhere else.” Because this is a quiet and calm energy and doesn’t shout loudly for our attention, it is often the most neglected. Finding “peace” seems like an “extra” that many of us don’t have time to pursue. Yet, within that peace, lies an ever-renewing source of energy. I would dare say that living without it is dangerous–and trying to live well without it, quite difficult.
Qualify spiritual practice: What does spiritual practice mean to you? It could be daily time for reflection or meditation; or daily Bible study or religious reading or prayer time. Take some time to think of where you have found spiritual energy in the past and if you are making room for spiritual energy on a daily basis.
Make a pact: Make a pact with yourself not to starve yourself of this soul food. Remember this is a quiet energy that won’t shout for your attention, so it is important to nourish and commit to it.
Keep a spiritual journal: Make entries of your spiritual practice time and record what you learn and discover. Use this as a source to return to again and again to inspire continued spiritual development.
Journal: Journal about what life means to you and the concept of “purpose.” What is your purpose? At the end of your life, what do you want to have completed here on earth and why? Use your journal to keep in touch with your purpose. You can also try writing about what “personal peace,” means to you.
Form a group: To stay on track with spiritual practice, consider a partner or group to touch base with on a regular basis.
Put it into Practice: Choose one of the above ideas to work with and schedule the time to do so on your calendar. I will also be teaching a class on 5 Steps of Personal Peace. Consider signing up if you are interested in the discovering sources of calm energy.
Your Turn: Make an energy action plan incorporating these different action steps into your life. Also, start an Energy Journal and take notes of what changes work for you and how your energy is influence by your efforts.
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